[Mysteriousheartland.com] The Fallen stood, thrashed by wind, in the shadow of an imposing stone building. Occasionally, a car rushed past on the road and voices echoed from nearby commercial parking lots, but all were oblivious to the four interlopers.
“Gentlemen, somewhere in this building is the solution to our coydog mystery,” Emmet announced, his hands perched defiantly on his hips.
A sharp noise of irritation pierced the air. “Ahem!”
Emmet rolled his eyes. “Gentlemen, and other people,” he corrected, deliberately avoiding the term ‘lady.’
Aurelia pushed him aside as she marched up to the ice-covered stairs leading to the long-abandoned Bowen Building at Peoria State Mental Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois. With an amused expression, she looked at the small ‘no trespassing’ sign. “What does that say?” she asked mockingly.
“I don’t know,” Greg replied while he pretended to strain his eyes. “I went to public school. I never learned how to read words with more than two syllables.”
Davin grinned. “Must be nothing.” He wiped his nose with a ratty, gray shirtsleeve.
“If you’re finished screwing around, I’d like to get to work,” Emmet interrupted. “Mike, tell them what you learned about that skull we found at Sunset Haven outside Carbondale.”
Mike cleared his throat as he followed the group into the ruined building. As they forced their way inside, water dripped from the ceiling and pooled on the grimy, hallway floor. “I cross-checked the skull against all known canines in North America and it doesn’t match any of them. It vaguely resembles a coyote, though. It might be a previously unknown breed.”
“What would a coyote half-breed skeleton with a collar be doing in an abandoned animal research hospital?” Emmet asked rhetorically. “Allow me to explain. In my own research, I discovered a newspaper article about a doctor employed at SIU in the 1960s named Dr. Wayne Gale. Dr. Gale worked in their animal research program doing genetic research. He performed unnecessary experiments on the animals and the university eventually fired him for mental instability. One night, police found him back in the facility. He had been breaking in and continuing his experiments. They arrested him and a judge found him clinically insane. Guess where he wound up?”
“Peoria State Hospital?” Davin whispered.
“You get a gold star,” Emmet smirked. “If we can find medical files on Dr. Gale, we might be able to learn more about his research and whether he, in fact, created our little coydog problem.”
“What makes you think the files are still here?” Aurelia asked. Her shrill voice echoed down the long, empty corridor. “Look at this place. Its doors closed over three decades ago. People have torn it apart.”
“I guess we’ll just have to find out,” Mike said with a satisfied grin as he flicked on his electric torch and pointed the beam into the darkness.
“I think you’d keep exploring these places even if there was nothing to find,” Greg quipped.
“This is the fun part,” Mike replied. “Where’s the fun when it’s over and everyone goes home?”
Suddenly, they heard a crash followed by the distinct sound of nails clicking on tile coming from the floor above. The inhuman footsteps traveled down the ceiling and stopped directly above where the Fallen stood.
Everyone froze. “Uh,” Mike whispered hesitantly, “those files are likely in the basement. I vote we go down there.”
“Will you relax,” Emmet said. “It’s probably just an opossum or something. Maybe a homeless man with no shoes and comically long toenails.” Drops of water fell on the rim of his baseball cap.
“Regardless, Mike has a point,” Greg interjected. “Those files are downstairs… most likely.”
Keeping their eyes and ears open, the quintet made their way to the stairwell and began their descent. The building, while quiet when they first entered, became alive with sound as though it resented the intrusion. Pipes rattled, the walls groaned, and unidentifiable clanks and clatters echoed throughout the deserted rooms.
“The ghosts don’t want us here,” Davin muttered.
Emmet quickly chastised him. “That’s enough,” he said. “I don’t want to hear any of that paranormal crap while we’re trying to find something of substance.”
Mike clenched his teeth but avoided responding as the group reached the bottom of the stairs.
The scent of mildew and dirt hung in the air. Deep in the bowels of the building, Greg and Emmet switched on their flashlights. The beams explored the walls until they fell on words stenciled in chipped paint: ‘Employees Only.’
“They probably kept the files in this area,” Aurelia said.
“Chalk one up for the queen of the obvious,” Greg sneered.
Aurelia retaliated by sending her steel toed boot into Greg’s shin before Mike intervened and pushed the two apart. “Crowley’s ass, that’s enough out of you,” he lectured.
“Here!” Davin yelled. Mike, Emmet, Aurelia, and Greg turned their heads in time to see Davin push open a door. The door handle slipped from its mooring and clattered noisily to the floor. A sharp clank from the floor above followed close behind.
“Okay, now even I’m getting nervous,” Emmet admitted as he followed Davin into the room. “We better find these papers and leave.”
Scanning the interior with the beam of his electric torch, Emmet discovered that Davin had unwittingly stumbled on a jackpot. Rusted file cabinets rested against the wall, and papers lay under a thick layer of dust on the floor. Luckily, perhaps even miraculously, moisture had not corrupted the room apart from a few stains on the ceiling and along the walls.
“Well, I guess we got lucky this time,” Mike grumbled. He pulled a digital camera from his trench coat pocket and took a few photos of the room.
“For once,” Aurelia added.
The Fallen began opening cabinets and flipped through the crusted files, but an anonymous case number marked each one.
Greg growled in frustration, but then noticed a desk wedged between two cabinets. Tearing open the drawers, he found an old, blue binder and opened it. “Look!” he shouted. “There’s a list of all the patients, serial numbers, and their room numbers!”
“Look for a Wayne Gale,” Emmet ordered as he shined his flashlight on the pages.
“Wow, here he is,” Greg said. “Gale, Wayne, Dr., #0589, Room 206. I don’t believe it.”
Mike had already been thumbing through the filing cabinet, so as soon Greg read the number he eagerly pulled out the correct file.
“Patient #0589,” he whispered. “Let’s see what you’ve been hiding.”
The file contained a stack of note cards and loose sheets of lined paper. It took Mike a few minutes to decipher the scribbled handwriting.
“Hm,” he said. “He talked a lot about his mother. He had boundary issues.”
“Isn’t that the problem these days?” Aurelia commented. “That doesn’t tell us anything―”
“Wait,” Mike cut her off. “His shrink noted this: ‘the patient is convinced his work at the research center was important and profitable. He claimed a security company was going to pay him a million dollars to create a new breed of guard dog; fearless but obedient. The company denies ever having known the doctor’.”
“Son of a b—!” Emmet exclaimed before quickly composing himself. “That crazy… Do you think it’s possible?”
“It’s possible,” Mike said. “But anything is possible.”
“Take that file,” Emmet said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this if it’s the last thing we do.”
“Wait, have you ever heard of theft?” Davin said. “Don’t you think we’ve broken enough laws today?”
“Fine,” Mike replied. “We’ll ‘borrow’ the files, and you can return them when we’re done.”
Davin laughed nervously but kept his mouth closed. Mike took the file from Greg and slid it into his trench coat. “Let’s leave,” he said. “This place gives me the creeps.”
[New episode every Friday…]
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This page is copyright Mysteriousheartland.com, 2016. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.